All Things oDesk

Success Stories: Jan Zands of Phonesheet.com

June 20, 2008 by

The Vision: In 1996, Jan Zands was answering phones at a Hollywood studio, trying to manage the high volume of incoming and outgoing calls with paper and pen–an overwhelming challenge. “A film producer will make about 40 calls per day and receive another 40 per day — and in Hollywood, a lot of people don’t return calls,” Zands explains. “It’s necessary to have a good system for tracking calls and what they are about, but at the time no such software existed — I saw an opportunity that a lot of other companies could benefit from as well.” Zands saw a way to build something better, and went into business building and installing FileMaker databases to handle call tracking. He soon realized that this was a cumbersome and expensive proposition for users. ìI needed to make it into a web-based application”, he said. The Problem: Good programmers are hard to find. Starting in 2001, Zands tried newspaper ads and Craigslist postings, then costly consulting firms and Internet-based offshore companies. Repeatedly he’d hire programmers who seemed reliable, but would end up leaving their work incomplete. “My biggest challenge was finding programmers that were affordable, but also skilled enough to finish the entire job,” Zands said. “I was wading around in the ocean of providers for over five years until I found oDesk.” The Solution: He found oDesk in April last year. “I went on oDesk and it was awesome! I posted my job and got about 20 responses within a day,” he said. “I was able to find people at the rate I needed and was also able to look at testimonials so I was certain that these people would finish the job.” That helped eliminate the biggest frustration he’d been experiencing. Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

oDesk Perspective: Are you oDesk Ready?

June 20, 2008 by

Most oDesk assignments start small–you’re hired to complete specific projects. But when you prove to buyers they can rely on you, they start giving you more hours and increasingly vital tasks. Soon you may find yourself fully integrated with their in-house staff, and that begins to change the relationship between buyer and provider. We’ve been there–oDesk hires providers to work with our in-house staff, and on some projects, one type of worker is virtually indistinguishable from the other (click here to read more about Team oDesk). When you’re hired to, say, write a discrete piece of code, the buyer may not care when you do the work–as long as the Work Diary and memos look good, and you get good code submitted on time. But when you’re needed for more real-time collaboration, you have to reach an agreement to be available during some or all of the buyer’s business hours. But how will you be available? Is IM enough? Do you need to have a Skype account? A webcam? When you’re out, will you leave an away message telling the team what time you’ll be back? Will the buyer’s in-house staffers do the same? If you are a freelance professional, the buyer trusts you to work around your daily life. Maybe you don’t log on until after midnight, or frequently suspend sessions to handle family needs. But once you’ve agreed to be available at set times, you must take extra steps to create a distraction-free work environment, just like the “in-house” telecommuter opting for a home office instead of a cubicle. Flexible freelancers are masters of clever workarounds, but as the team becomes more interdependent, everyone needs to understand that expectations evolve. Integrating yourself into the buyer company’s daily workflow … Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

oDesk Perspective: Integrating Virtual Staff

June 20, 2008 by

Most oDesk assignments start small–you hire a provider to complete a specific project. But when the provider proves he can be relied upon, you start giving him more hours and increasingly vital tasks. Soon you may find your remote provider fully integrated with your in-house staff, and that begins to change the relationship between buyer and provider. We know–here at oDesk we hire providers to work with our in-house staff, and on some projects, one type of worker is virtually indistinguishable from the other (click here to read more about Team oDesk). Add to the mix workplace flexibility that allows traditional employees to telecommute instead of coming to the office each day and you’ve got a team requiring an entirely new set of management skills. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned on the job. When you hire a provider to, say, write a discrete piece of code, you may not care when he does the work–as long as the Work Diary and memos look good, and you get good code on time. But when you need more real-time collaboration, you have to reach an agreement for the provider to be available during some or all of your business hours. But how will he be available? Is IM enough? Does he need to have a Skype account? A webcam? When he’s out, will he leave an away message telling you what time he’ll be back? Will your in-house staffers do the same? You trust your provider to work around his daily life. Maybe he doesn’t log on until after midnight, or frequently suspends sessions to handle family needs. Once he’s agreed to be available at set times, you have as much right to make sure he’ll have a distraction-free work … Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

oDesk Secures $15 Million In Series C Funding

June 3, 2008 by

This morning we announced some exciting news. oDesk has raised $15 million in a round of financing led by DAG Ventures. Our existing investors – Benchmark Capital, Globespan Capital Partners and Sigma Partners- also participated in the round. We’re excited to welcome DAG Ventures into the oDesk family and we’re delighted that our existing investors were eager to invest again. oDesk is growing faster than we ever have before as more and more companies use our service to build and manage global teams.   In addition to bringing the team in Menlo Park together for a fantastic buffet of celebratory Costco pizza, ribs, and cheesecake, having the extra cash gives us more flexibility to move even faster toward our vision of changing the way the world works.  Plus, DAG has been a pleasure to work with. Read the press release here. Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

oDesk Readiness is now public and required to apply to jobs

June 3, 2008 by

As promised, we have launched the second phase of the oDesk Readiness Test. This means buyers are now be able to explicitly search for and find oDesk Ready providers in provider search. Providers’ oDesk Readiness will also be displayed as part of their public profiles. We are also going to enforce provider oDesk Readiness by setting the job application quotas for all providers who are not yet oDesk Ready to ZERO. Therefore, all freelancers, company managers, and affiliated contractors on oDesk will have to become oDesk Ready before they can apply to any more jobs. If you have any concerns or suggestions please post your feedback here, http://www.odesk.com/community/node/3572. Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

Include Remittance Info with Wire Transfers

May 28, 2008 by

We are happy to announce what is a small but important feature requested by managers of provider companies. Some banks in our top provider countries like Ukraine and India require a memo along with a wire that helps provide some information about the payment, titled “remittance information”. As requested, the wire transfer option in the withdrawals page now includes an optional field called “Remittance Information”. This field takes 35 characters, will be included with the transfer, and should appear in your bank statement. Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

Provider Search now defaults to “Titles Only”

May 27, 2008 by

In order to improve the relevance of provider search results, we’ve decided to set “Search titles only” as checked by default. So for example, if you search by the keyword “Java”, the default provider search results will only return those providers who have opted to include “Java” in their titles. Of course, you can always widen your search by unchecking the “Search titles only” checkbox. Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

Success Story: Stuart Hibbert / icomplete.com

May 22, 2008 by

Stuart Hibbert from icomplete was kind enough to interview with oDesk and share some of his insights into how to successfully use oDesk as a buyer. His interview was included in a recent oDesk newsletter. Based in Swindon, England, icomplete.com was conceived by three founders who, after many years of running successful small businesses, wanted to pass on their knowledge to help other companies improve their image, save time, and increase profits. Their Software-as-a-Service Business Suite incorporates CRM (contact management), calendar, task management, collaboration tools, telephony and website widgets, plus real-life personal assistants to answer calls and undertake tasks clients don’t have time or expertise to do themselves. The beta version is due out soon, to be followed by the commercial launch in the United Kingdom – starting at just £25 ($50) per month – there are no upfront costs, or contract tie-ins. An advertising-supported ‘free’ version will also be available worldwide (minus some of the enhanced features). CEO Stuart Hibbert is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business and specifically the product and technical teams. “Ultimately,” he says, “the buck stops with me.” As an oDesk buyer: Hibbert has been using oDesk for nearly a year, hiring developers within several disciplines; Java, AJAX (JavaScript) and Asterisk; as well as product testing and technical writing. “We started off with just a couple of Java developers back in June 2007,” he says. “We wanted to understand how outsourcing would work for us and which service best suited our requirements. We initially worked with two remote management services, but we liked oDesk so much that we moved those developers over to oDesk too. Our team is now nine providers strong. We tend to have a regular stable of providers – however, for certain skills we do … Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

Market your company with the new Company Profile

May 20, 2008 by

As a company manager, you now have a lot more control over how your company is seen by potential oDesk partners. The biggest change is for Provider Companies: – You can set a company “tagline” and full description, in HTML – You can more easily upload your company logo – We show more statistics about your company – We show your company managers and up to 10 Affiliated Contractors, so your potential buyers can see who they will be working with See a sample here: Any team member with Admin privileges may edit your tagline, description, and logo on the Team Admn -> Team/Company Info tab (link) Buyers: Now you can market yourself as well Buyers, you can now display your company name, logo, tagline and description in each of your job openings. The setting applies to all of your job openings. It is of course completely optional, and the default setting is complete buyer anonymity. Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

Are you ready to work on oDesk? Take the oDesk Readiness Test

May 20, 2008 by

We’ve just launched the oDesk Readiness Test for providers. It is a brief tutorial, designed to educate new providers on oDesk policies and best practices. Providers who have recently billed hours on oDesk are by definition ready to work and will be granted the “oDesk Ready” designation without having to pass the oDesk Readiness Test. The oDesk Readiness Test has the following specifications: 25 multiple choice questions Open book 90% correct to pass Should take less than 30 minutes to complete Test topics include: Following oDesk Policies Getting Hired Working on Assignments In two weeks, only providers who are oDesk Ready will be able to apply to jobs. Therefore, we highly recommend all providers who are not yet oDesk Ready to take the oDesk Readiness Test before June 4th. Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

Buzzworthy (May 2008)

May 20, 2008 by

We’ve begun passing out T-shirts to our favorite blog or forum posts mentioning oDesk. This month’s winners are: Airish A for her blog ‘My So-Called “Freelance” Life’. Chris T for great use of his oDesk Certified badges. Janette P for her post on the advantages of using oDesk to work at home. Ryan J for my favorite quote of the month: “I personally had never heard of oDesk until I stumbled upon it in some offbeat manner, but it looks like a service suited for people in my field of work. oDesk is a service that brings together businesses and I.T. Consultants, Programmers and Designers and if I had actually taken some time to read computing magazines or tech news sites in the past year or two, I would have already known about the service.” Remember – if you haven’t gotten your T-shirt, send your latest blog or forum posts mentioning oDesk to buzz@odesk.com! … Read Full Article

oConomy

oDesk Perspective: Project Managers

May 20, 2008 by

Most buyers post their first job to fill a skill or budget gap on a particular project. You find a skilled worker or two and get the project taken care of. But success breeds success – as your needs grow, you hire more providers. Suddenly you’re managing a growing remote team, which may be more demanding than you’d anticipated. If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to keep your remote team in motion, use oDesk to hire a project manager (PM). A good PM minimizes the direct management required on your part, so you can leverage your time and expertise more wisely. To hire a PM using oDesk you’ve got two options: Search for new candidates, or promote someone who looks promising from your existing team. Either way, you’re looking for exceptional communication skills, business savvy, leadership experience, and technical expertise. oDesk’s network includes both independent contractors and provider companies with dozens of affiliated contractors working under the same roof. If you hire your PM from a provider company, he will tend to hire from within his company. The downside is that, arguably, there may be better-qualified people for a specific task elsewhere on our network. The upside is that while you are remote, your PM could be on location with his team members, allowing closer management. Plus, a large provider company can quickly move the right people in and out of your team as the project requires. Once you select your PM, take the time to provide her with in-depth training on your projects. Give your PM ìhiring managerî or ìrecruiterî privileges (in the Team Admin section of My oDesk) and ask her to build your team. Pay attention to whom she interviews and hires and why – discuss how she handles initial recruiting decisions, and offer guidance as needed. Set … Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

Success Stories: Stuart Hibbert

May 20, 2008 by

Based in Swindon, England, icomplete.com was conceived by three founders who, after many years of running successful small businesses, wanted to pass on their knowledge to help other companies improve their image, save time, and increase profits. Their Software-as-a-Service Business Suite incorporates CRM (contact management), calendar, task management, collaboration tools, telephony and website widgets, plus real-life personal assistants to answer calls and undertake tasks clients don’t have time or expertise to do themselves. CEO Stuart Hibbert is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business and specifically the product and technical teams. “Ultimately,” he says, “the buck stops with me.” As an oDesk buyer: Hibbert has been using oDesk for nearly a year, hiring developers within several disciplines; Java, AJAX (JavaScript) and Asterisk; as well as product testing and technical writing. “We started off with just a couple of Java developers back in June 2007,” he says. “We wanted to understand how outsourcing would work for us and which service best suited our requirements. We initially worked with two remote management services, but we liked oDesk so much that we moved those developers over to oDesk too. Our team is now nine providers strong. We tend to have a regular stable of providers – however, for certain skills we do regularly post to the community at large to see if there is new talent available.” Q: In what way has oDesk made it easier to manage remote workers? A: Several ways: Hire – Instant access to a wealth of providers located around the world. We ask all providers to undertake tests in the field which is most closely associated to the position they are applying for. We read the feedback which has been provided by other buyers. Day to … Read Full Article

oConomy

Explosive growth in the Philippines

May 15, 2008 by

A recent internal analysis at oDesk yielded some pretty interesting trends within our own network. We were looking at the total hours worked by all providers and were segmenting the hours by various different criteria. One of the most startling trends we found was the growth in hours worked by providers from the Philippines. The number of hours worked in Philippines has grown 4x in just 4 months. The amazing thing to us is the fully viral expansion of work that’s going on in this country. We have not changed anything about our acquisition strategy in the Philippines so this is true word-of-mouth growth. Kudos to the providers that are driving this rapid expansion. Here’s a few top providers: … Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

Job and Provider Search Results Improvements

May 14, 2008 by

We have overhauled the display of the search results for both jobs and providers. For Jobs, we are now showing much more information about the buyer, including how much work they have billed, and how many of their job postings have resulted in hires. We are also showing more information about the job, specifically how many providers have applied, how many providers the buyer has invited to interview, and how many interviews the buyer has set up. Finally, we are displaying the buyer’s payment method verification status. Browse jobs. For Providers, we are similarly showing more information about the provider’s history on oDesk, and also showing the first section of the provider’s self-description, so the buyer can more easily tell whether he is interested in contacting the provider. We are also showing the provider’s Company, if he is affiliated with one, including the name, logo, and feedback score. Browse providers. Oh, and we think we’ve made both search results look a lot better too… … Read Full Article

How I Got My First Interview – A Great Profile

May 14, 2008 by

Gemma Baltazar is a freelance provider on oDesk and writes her own blog at the Lady Programmer. We’ve invited her to write this guest post. When I first got into oDesk, I did not have an oDesk work history and a feedback to complete my profile. I started out with a poorly written profile because I was in a rush to apply to jobs, hoping that there might be some buyer who might be willing to take chances on my skills. As days and weeks went on, no buyer came in and took the time to interview me. Soon, I realized that these buyers are not willing to invest on a provider who seemed to be less serious in taking a job. With so many providers applying for a particular job in oDesk it seemed to me that I was left out to providers with proven track record in oDesk. I was wrong. How did able to get my first interview? After much thought I decided to take a day off from applying jobs to polish my profile. I made it as complete as possible to make it stand out among the rest. Here are the things that I did to make my profile speak: 1. Create an attractive one-line title. Having an attractive title is a must because this is the first thing that a buyer sees in his or her candidate list. Buyers tend to click on more intriguing titles and check out what is in store. 2. Have a clear objective. The objective is the next big thing that buyers read. A good objective for me is the one that puts the buyer’s need in mind. Customer satisfaction, quality work and timely delivery are some powerful words that put a buyer at full attention. 3. Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

Grow your oDesk business: add Teams to your Company, or create a new Company

April 23, 2008 by

The long-awaited “Create Team” feature is finally here. All users (except non-admin ACs) can now create as many teams as you want. Buyers can create multiple Teams, and Providers can create their own Company as well. Buyers and Provider Company Managers: add Teams to your Company Why would you want to do this? Separate your providers into Teams with separate SVN and Bugzilla instances Have providers work on different projects or for different clients, and generate financial reports divided by Team Separating billing, i.e. pay for different work with different credit cards Separate your ACs into different teams, managed by different Staffing Managers Independent Contractors: create your own Company on oDesk Why would you want to do this? Become a Buyer – hire some oDesk providers to work for you Create a Provider Company – subcontractor work to your Affiliated Contractors and earn even more money Do you already have multiple accounts? We can merge all of your accounts under one User ID for you. Just file a support request and include all of your User IDs. Learn more about creating Companies and Teams and grow your oDesk business! … Read Full Article

The Way We Work

Thoughts for Leaders of Distributed Teams

April 21, 2008 by

Great piece on CIOZone by Lojeski and Reilly about the new style of leadership necessary with distributed or virtual teams. I think the tips for managers are spot-on. clipped from www.ciozone.com And if the team is re-imagined as an ensemble, then the person who leads these teams must also be re-engineered. The traditional view of a leader is a manager who monitors, controls and rewards or punishes behavior. This is a transactional style of leadership. But today’s virtual ensembles that are globally distributed and digitally connected require a new style of leadership that the authors call “ambassadorial leadership.” Ambassadorial leaders must be able to span geographic, cultural and organizational boundaries and create trust between disparate groups of people. There are seven specific behaviors that are needed, according to the authors, including: 1. Communication clarity 2. Cultural sensitivity 3. Context sensitivity 4. Boundary spanning 5. Advocacy 6. Shared leadership 7. Leader intent   … Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

oDesk Perspective: Finding the Right Provider

April 20, 2008 by

As an oDesk buyer, finding the right provider is as simple as posting a job in our robust marketplace and sitting back to wait for the dozens of applications to flood in, right? Well, yes, but it’s not always the best way. It’s certainly the foundation of filling a job, but it’s also about as modern as a Norman Rockwell painting. Hanging a “Help Wanted” sign or putting an ad in your local paper and waiting for resumes is as quaint a 20th century custom as you could come up with. It’s the default position. In the online era, and with as powerful a tool as oDesk, you can do much more. We’ve got about 67,000 providers, but most of them are not who you’re looking for on any one project. On the other hand, we have about 73,000 jobs, with about 300 new ones posted per day. You’re sure to get worthy candidates applying to yours, but some really great providers will no doubt miss your listing. Good providers keep busy, and some people you’d love to talk to might not be checking new posts the day or week yours goes up. oDesk, unlike the newspaper classifieds and the sites that recreate them online, doesn’t force you to wait for the right worker to come to your rescue. We recommend – especially when you’re looking for a more refined skill set – searching for candidates in our provider database and directly inviting them to interview. This lets you pick candidates based on skills and feedback and relevant work, and it gives you a shot at finding someone who might not have happened to apply to your posting. Great providers might get started with good marketing, but they thrive on word of mouth and repeat business. They’re busy. Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

Buzzworthy (April 2008)

April 20, 2008 by

We’ve begun passing out T-shirts to our favorite blog or forum posts mentioning oDesk, and this month has produced a good crop focused on advice for providers. You can find all our favorites this month posted in our forum, but our top choice to highlight is Gemma Baltazar’s, from her Lady Programmer blog. A programmer and developer, she’s been posting tips for the freelancer, comparing PayPal and Payoneer for providers in the Philippines, using Yahoo mail with oDesk, discussing time management and examining how she communicates with offshore buyers. That latest post breaks down communication techniques in everything from technological challenges to etiquette tips-a good read for providers and buyers alike. Remember-if you haven’t gotten your T-shirt, send your latest blog posts mentioning oDesk to buzz@odesk.com! … Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

Success Stories: Sarah Lewis

April 20, 2008 by

Sarah Lewis runs Abundant Media, Inc. (currently producing Findable Blogs) in Boise, Idaho, with two employees, about 15 contractors (more than two-thirds of them via oDesk). She also works as a provider on oDesk as a WordPress developer. With her experience on both sides of that relationship, she has recently written an e-book designed to help providers make the most of oDesk. “Making Money in Your Pajamas: A Freelancer’s Handbook from the oDesk Insider,” a practical, step-by-step guide to freelancing online using oDesk, with a particular focus on creating a profile that attracts buyers, and cover letters that win jobs. Q: You’re both a provider and buyer on oDesk. In which role did you start, and how did you come to wear both hats? A: I started as a buyer, looking for help with my quickly growing business. As I reviewed cover letters and profiles, I realized that many providers have excellent skills but don’t know how to best promote themselves. I knew what attracted me as a buyer, but I wanted to see if my observations were universal, so I initially set up my provider profile as an experiment (it worked; I applied for three jobs at higher-than-average rates and got two of them). Now I’m using my provider profile as an alternate marketing method. Q: Having written an e-book for oDesk providers, what piece of advice do you think providers will find most surprising? A: You don’t need to be the lowest bidder. Many freelancers try to compete on price, but that’s a mistake. Q: Have you seen results with the techniques you’ve written about? A: My book editor, an oDesk provider, made some changes this week to his profile based on the book’s advice, and … Read Full Article

All Things oDesk

More easily find Providers with Portfolios

April 16, 2008 by

We have added the following 3 ways to help Buyers discover Providers with Portfolios (and to help Providers get noticed!) A “Portfolio” indicator in Search Results shows how many portfolio items a Provider has. This links directly to the portfolio tab in the Provider’s profile. A new item in the sort dropdown allows search results to be sorted by the number of portfolio items. A new Advanced Search option, “Has Portfolio,” has been added. This is just one of many features we are releasing to help Buyers and Providers find the perfect match. Let us know what you think! … Read Full Article

oConomy

Weekend Warriors are Worth Less

April 14, 2008 by

As part of our ongoing marketing efforts at oDesk, we have a pretty substantial Google Adwords campaign set up. I was reviewing some of the data today and we noticed that for all campaigns, the conversion ratios (% of visitors that sign up for an account) were highest on Saturdays. A little unexpected, but an interesting finding. Google allows you to tailor your campaigns by automatically adjusting your bid amounts by day of week. Seems like it would be appropriate to increase our bid amounts on Saturdays so we capitalize on this increased conversion ratio. Or maybe not? I was wondering why conversion ratio was higher on the weekend so I decided to take a look at oDesk data for job postings over the last few months. I took a look at over 10,000 jobs posted and analyzed results based on a few simple criteria. First, I wanted to understand the distribution of types of jobs posted by day. I put together all the results in Excel and did a pivot table on the day of week. Note that for all of the following charts, 1 = Monday, 7 = Sunday. This first chart shows the total ratio of fixed price jobs posted on the oDesk network by the day of week. Sundays apparently have the highest percentage of fixed price jobs. Ok, so clearly there is a small bias toward fixed price jobs on the weekends. What about job size? The following chart shows the average estimated hours for hourly jobs (estimated hours = estimated workload in hours per week * estimated duration in weeks). Note that durations over 100 weeks are rounded down to 100 weeks. Clearly, hourly jobs tend to be smallest on Sundays. Ok, we’re starting to see a trend here. Let’s … Read Full Article

The Way We Work

10 ways to have a “Virtual Team Lunch”

April 9, 2008 by

I just went out for a team lunch with our local team – 5 of us had a very nice lunch and talked and joked about family, golf, airplanes, dating, and Hillary Clinton. During the lunch, I thought of the other 8 people that are part of my team. 3 data entry professionals in Mohali, India; 1 work-at-home mom in Pune, India; 1 part-time community moderator in Omsk, Russia; 1 freelance newsletter writer in Oakland, CA; 1 copywriter / editor based in Oregon but traveling in Brazil; and 1 search marketing consultant working at home in San Francisco, CA. If you’re reading this blog, you probably have been in a similar situation. Why should they be excluded? Do they have the same needs as the rest of us co-located workers that get to enjoy each other’s company and go out for a lunch or a happy hour? Of course they do. So what do you do for team-building for distributed teams. Here’s a few ideas: 1 ) Introduce everyone – Make sure that your remote team is well-connected with each other and with everyone in the organization that they need to be. It’s easy for a local employee to raise their hand and ask others for help, but if you are the primary point of contact for your remote contractor, you need to make sure they have multiple people that they can turn to for help. And have some fun with the intros – ask each team member to send an intro email that includes hobbies or a funny story. 2 ) Run a full group chat 24×7 - Almost all instant messenger platforms have group chat capability. Start a group chat and let it run all day long even if you’re not around. Your … Read Full Article